Maoists struggle to enforce election boycott in Jharkhand
A dirt track winding through sal-covered hills of Porahat forest give way to a trail deeper into the forest. The steep trail, accessible only on foot for several kilometres, goes past hamlets scattered over the ara serang, red hills, as the tribal villagers refer to the iron-rich earth of Porahat. It opens into a valley where two squads of the banned CPI (Maoist) halted for the day. The Maoists have frequently used Porahat, a fragmented forest contiguous with Saranda forest, as a shelter since the Centre launched Operation Anaconda in 2011 to flush out Maoists from Saranda, which served as their eastern regional bureau headquarters and where several training camps were held.
The paramilitary operations went on several months, and ten Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camps were set up in Saranda as part of a Rs. 250-crore Saranda Development Plan, pushing the Maoists to move northwards into Porahat. The Maoists who called for an election boycott in late February have pasted public notices in villages in several districts. Singhbhum constituency reserved for Scheduled Tribes, where former Chief Minister and Independent Madhu Koda is the sitting MP, will go to polls on Thursday. Mr. Koda’s wife Geeta Koda is contesting in his place. The Congress and BJP candidates are campaigning at a hectic pace in Chaibasa, and other towns.
There is little sign of the approaching elections in the villages. In one remote forest village in Porahat, the squads’ leaders addressed villagers to propagate an election boycott. “They wish to elect a Lok Sabha for the 16th time, but has any election changed gareebi (poverty), mehngaai (price rise), atyachaar (repression)?” Mahesh Pahan, in his early 30s with a short athletic build, who led both squads, began. “Why did they think of Saranda Development Plan now, decades after independence? Because 90 per cent of villagers there had started supporting the party (Maoists). Villagers do not have even five dismil land, why is government giving land in excess to industries?” he said, as men and children listened attentively sitting on a platform, and the women listened from afar.
Mr. Pahan recounted he spent three years in jail but resumed his role after the cases against him were dismissed a few years back. He has since been in the “technical side” he said, alluding to training in making explosives. He comes from a family of tribal priests from Khunti, and is one of five brothers of Bihar Jharkhand North Chhattisgarh Special Area Committee member Kundan Pahan, top among the list of ‘most wanted’ Maoist leaders in Jharkhand.
The Porahat village is among the few the party counts among its base here. After Mr. Pahan had finished addressing the meeting, the village elders came and discussed village matters with the rebels, and children played in the vicinity. Mr. Pahan, however, admitted that it was becoming more difficult to find area where the rebels still had a committed base, where the people thought of the party “as their own.” He explained this as both a result of intensified paramilitary operations and attacks by People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a splinter group. In December, the CPI (Maoist) had offered yuddhviraam, ceasefire to PLFI citing both parties’ cadre were from the same socio-economic class, but the latter rejected it, say the Maoists.
So far, the poll boycott too has had limited success. Palamu, Chatra, Lohardaga constituencies which went to polls on April 10 saw an increase of nine percent in turnout. “In Saranda, 30 villagers came to meet us and said they will encourage the poll boycott in their areas, but we are not sure how effective this will be. We should have put up more posters, distribute pamphlets. But the CRPF have been carrying out operations even at night, we are unable to hold longer public meetings or long training sessions,” said Mr. Pahan. As the evening drew near, the squad prepared to leave. Sukru Munda, who accompanied this reporter to the village, said he expected the people to back the boycott.
Six Maoists Arrested in Bihar
In a joint operation, the CRPF and the Bihar Police today arrested six Maoists in East Champaran district, police said. Acting on a tip-off, a joint team of the CRPF and the district police raided areas under Rajepur and Patahi police station and held six Maoists for allegedly hatching a plan to trigger violence during the elections, SP Operation Rajiv Kumar said. Those arrested included Viyonath Manjhi alias Sanjay, wanted in several Naxal-related incidents, he said, adding two countrymande pistols, ten live bullets and Naxal literature have been recovered from them.
About 55% polling amid Maoist violence in Jharkand till 3 pm
…Five persons, including four CRPF personnel, were injured in attacks by Maoists, who also blew up railway lines in separate places in the state. A CRPF patrol was attacked by Maoists who exploded two land mines at Lalpania near Maoist—affected Jhumra Hills in Bokaro district, CRPF (26th Battalion) Commandant, Sanjay Kumar said. Three CRPF men, Pratap Singh, Surendra Kumar and P.C. Mandal besides driver Ranjit Kumar were injured.
Maoists fired on another CRPF patrol at Tulbul village injuring one of the men and a brief encounter took place before the ultras retreated. Maoists also blew up a stretch of railway lines between Dania railway station in Bokaro under the South Eastern Railway disrupting train services, Bokaro Superintendent of Police, Jitendra Kumar Singh said.
A pressure cooker bomb was recovered near a polling booth in Naxal-hit Saranda forest range of the State, an hour before polling began in the Singhbhum (ST) constituency, Superintendent of Police, N.K. Singh said. A report from Giridih said that the Maoists exploded ten bombs at separate places in the Giridih Lok Sabha constituency where polling was on. The rebels also exploded a bomb at Ghamaria Bharati Chalkari and two at Harladih around 1.30 a.m. The first phase of the polls was held in four constituencies on April 10. The third and last phase would be held on April 24 in four seats.
Four IEDs recovered from polling booths in Chhattisgarh
RAIPUR: Barely 12 hours before the commencing of polling for the second phase Lok Sabha elections in Rajnandgaon and Kanker constituencies of Chhattisgarh, security forces have thwarted a major attempt of the Naxals to blow up two polling stations with the recovery of four Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) late on Wednesday evening. According to EC officials, while three IEDs were recovered from the booth at Edasara school, Tadoki, Kanker, one was found at Sharda booth in Rajnandgaon, the home constituency of Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh. Each device reportedly weighed 5 to 7 kg.
Officials said investigations were on and a thorough search of the booth had been ordered. When contacted, ADG, naxal operations, RK Vij, confirmed the recovery of four IEDs. He revealed that the IEDs were concealed in a banner. He said investigations were still in progress. Incidentally two tiffin bombs were also earlier recovered during the day in Kanker.
Naxals trigger landmine blast in Kanker; none hurt
Raipur: Naxals triggered a landmine blast on Thursday in insurgency-hit Kanker Lok Sabha constituency of Chhattisgarh when a polling party escorted by security forces was returning after conducting elections in the region. However, no injuries or causalities were reported in the blast. “The incident took place under Bhanupratappur police station limits of Kanker district when a polling party was returning from Parvi booth,” Additional Director General of Police (naxal operation) R K Vij told.
After voting concluded at 3 pm in the Bhanupratappur assembly seat of Kanker parliamentary constituency, the polling party escorted by security forces was heading towards Bhanupratappur when the naxals struck. Security forces and polling party were safely evacuated from the spot, he said. Polling ended at 3 pm in the seven naxal-hit assembly constituencies in three Lok Sabha seats of Kanker, Rajnandgaon and Mahasamund.
Maoists may target ‘soft’ areas today: Intelligence agencies
NEW DELHI: Even though polls in core Maoist areas in the country are over, intelligence inputs have warned of the possibility of spectacular attacks in areas under mild Maoist influence that go to polls on Thursday. Intelligence agencies have spotted movement of Maoist cadres from core Naxal areas to non-core areas, suggesting that the ultras would try to take advantage of the thinly spread-out force and its lack of alertness in what are being seen as ‘soft’ areas.
Inputs have been received about movement of cadres from Bastar towards Kanker and from Bihar and Jharkhand towards Sarguja in Chhattisgarh. Similarly, movement of Naxal cadres has been spotted in Odisha shifting from Malkangiri to Nabrangpur. Polls in core Maoist areas such as Bastar, Malkangiri, Jamui, Aurangabad and Gaya (in Bihar), Chatra, Palamu, Lohardaga (in Jharkhand) and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra were held together on April 10. The next set of Naxal areas (softer in nature), including Giridih, Hazaribagh and Khunti in Jharkhand, Kanker, Mahsamund and Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh, Jahanabad and Munger in Bihar and Nabrangpur in Odisha will go to polls on Thursday.
None turn up to vote in 8 booths in Maoist-hit Malkangiri
Though there was peaceful repolling in 15 booths in Maoist-hit Chitrakonda Assembly seat in Odisha’s Malkangiri district today, no votes were cast in eight polling stations mostly due to fear, official sources said. No votes were polled in the seven booths in cut-off areas of Balimela reservoir — Andrapalli, Sanyasiguda, Handikhol, Panasput, Sirongi, Gorasetu and Jantri and one booth in Mathili area. Kamarpalli booth, one of the two polling stations in Mathili area also witnessed nil voter turnout.
The officials attributed it is the fear of Maoists and the long distance to the polling stations discouraged voters. A total of 11,433 voters were to cast their votes in the 15 booths. The repolling was ordered in the 15 booths as the Maoists had snatched away EVMs and set them on fire during the April 10 polls.
12 hour bandh concludes peacefully
IMPHAL, April 16: The 12 hour bandh called by the Maoist Communist Party Manipur affected normal life in the state as the two twin markets of Imphal remained closed for the day. All the inter-district passenger services remained off the road. However there were no reports of any untoward incident during the bandh. All shops and business establishments in both Paona and Thangal Bazar and the three Ima markets remained closed during the 12 hour bandh from 5 am to 5 pm.
Vehicular traffic along the roads in the state capital remained negligible with only a few private vehicles seen plying along the road. Most schools, colleges and other business establishments also remained close during the bandh. The bandh was called by the Maoist Communist Party Manipur alleging the sitting MP Th Meinya of misusing his MP Local Area Development Fund for the last ten years.
Detonators, explosives recovered in Keonjhar
Bhubaneswar, Apr 17 (PTI) Security forces today recovered a cache of detonators and other explosives in poll-bound Keonjhar district of Odisha. The recovery was made by a joint squad of forces led by paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force from Dheri village in Nayakot area of the district. Ten detonators and 11 gelatin sticks have been recovered from a suspected Maoist hideout in the area, a senior official said. A search operation is on in the area to look for ultras, the officials said.
IEDs found in Hazaribagh on poll eve
Five IEDs planted by the Maoists to target polling personnel were today recovered in Hazaribagh, which is going to the polls tomorrow. The explosives, which were planted under a culvert in Ambatanr forest area under Bishungarh police station, were discovered by the security men accompanying the polling personnel, Superintendent of Police Manoj Kaushik said here. The IEDs, which weighed two kg each, were defused, Kaushik said, adding they were planted by the Maoists to target polling personnel and security men. “We have intensified combing operation in the Maoist belt,” he added.
Residents boycott polls in Imphal West district
People in five polling stations in Imphal West district boycotted the Lok Sabha polls held on Thursday. The voters in four polling stations at Oinam Assembly constituency did not turn up for casting their votes. This is in protest against the manhandling of a woman allegedly by a police official under Nambol station limits. The people have been demanding the transfer of the police officer. One woman activist told The Hindu that they met Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei, who is in charge of Home Ministry on the issue.
The activists told the leaders that unless the police official is transferred, they have no option but to boycott polls. Despite the assurance by the Mr. Gangmei to address the issue within a week, nothing has happened, they alleged. Meanwhile, Chaoba Thounaojam, the state unit president of the BJP deplored the lapses of the Manipur government in this regard. He said that after a preliminary inquiry the officer should have been transferred away to mollify the people.
He added that it is not too late now to transfer him if he is found guilty and then fix a new date of polling for these polling stations. In a separate development, voters at Lambal in Imphal West district boycotted the elections on Thursday. The voters were angered over the arrest of a driver by personnel of 10 Assam Rifles.